Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Sonic Seagulls

There’s one Sonic on the Island where we live. 

Thank goodness for this Sonic and happy hour as a young mom.

We go there a lot - especially if the girls wake up early from their naps and dinner time seems extra-longish away. 

We’re frequent customers. 

And so are the seagulls. 

We pull into the Sonic and the flock of seagulls scatters, cawing in consternation.  They make so much din that our order’s barely heard over the intercom, and they fight incessantly over crumbs of tossed-out french fries.  One time we saw a car of tourists pull over on purpose - just to heave their fries out of the window and witness the cloud of gulls descend.  I’ve noticed some hobble on one foot, the other webbed toes casualties of cars that came too close.  Their feathers are mangled.  The ocean, the sand, the source of life is just across the street, but they live here, shuffling over cracked, sun-baked pavement and perching on dumpsters.  Wads of chewed gum peeling off the sidewalk. They cry and they cry and they cry.

One afternoon our little family of four was there for a large lemon slush, a large vanilla diet coke, and a small lemon slush/water, a “treat for me, for MEGGIE!”

The seagulls were there, too.  I rolled down my window as we waited and listened.  From beneath my shades I muttered: “You know, I just don’t get these seagulls.  How did they get stuck here like this, how can they want this to be their whole life - scrambling around for some measly fries - even if they are Sonic fries? (the ONLY ones I crave when I’m pregnant)”

I grew some conviction. 

“I mean, if I were a seagull, I wouldn’t want to be here.  I’d want to be soaring over the ocean, diving for fish.  I’d want my feet to feel the sand.  I’d want to smell the salt.  Why do they do this?  If I were a seagull, I’d want to be a seagull!”

AV cooed from her carseat and kicked a rattle.  Meggie bebopped to her current favorite playlist - the Genesis song.  And Kyle didn’t really answer.  He listened, as he always does, but I think he knew it was another one of my rhetorical musings. 

Or maybe his Navy, military, doing-what-he’s-born-to-do-always-dreamed-to-do, flying mind doesn’t go to the places of Sonic and seagulls and sand.

Because here’s what it really meant:

Sometimes I’m like these seagulls. 

No, I am one of the Sonic seagulls.

I’m 28-years-old, married for almost six years, the mama of two precious daughters.  I’ve graduated from college, earned a Master’s of Science degree, held down some jobs, helped others.  I’ve moved eight times over my life - five times since being married - and loved deeply.  I’ve studied God, read God, accepted God, been changed.

But in all these things, these wondrous things, I feel like something’s missing. 

I’m really good at doing what I think others expect of me, being who I think I should be.  And even though I’m doing now what I want to do, indeed the work in raising my girls that I feel I’ve been given to do, called to do, I don’t think I’m living the fullest life like I could.

My earliest memories of dreams involve writing.  I used to fall asleep every night in my little girl bed, tucked into a sweet alcove under our North Carolina eaves, a pad of paper and pen on my pillow - just in case I’d have an idea for my story in the middle of the night.  Characters would play across my closed eyelids as I slumbered, and it was a game to find for them the perfect words. 

In my freshman high-school Honors English class, I turned in a 20-page paper - which was supposed to be five MAX - on the House of Tudor because I was swept up in the drama of Mary.  The teacher’s feedback: TOO much, TOO flowery scrawled in red across the beginning paragraph.  I got the same on my research report on camels in the fifth grade.  And the same on my first collegiate submission in Civil War Literature - my undergraduate college’s sole goal to beat out the unnecessary language.

And once I even named four potato plants that my Grandaddy taught me how to grow in an old hay-bale after friends I’d made up for a story. 

Everything turns up as a story to me; it’s what I love. 

I’ve gotten dangerously close before to realizing this dream.  Of being A Writer.  Like when I was accepted to a graduate program in Creative Writing at the University of West Florida in Pensacola - our first military station for Kyle’s flight school.  Before I started, though, something tragic happened in my family and I got scared.  Of what, I’m not sure, but I quickly changed plans. 

I went with what was safe, but also what was second.  I loved school, was a good student, wanted to help people, use the scientific side of my brain.  And I wanted to prove to my family - many of whom thought that if I got married right out of college that I’d be only a wife and cease to be Shannon - that I could be a wife AND get my graduate degree, be a professional.

I applied to a counseling program and got in.  Started there, and when we moved, applied to a Ph.D. program in the counseling psychology field.  I was accepted into that program, and began a new life as Ph.D. student.  I loved my clients and enjoyed class.  But still that missing, missing. 

My womb also yearned for a baby.  Writing and babies - that was my original wish.  But I felt like I had given my life away to my studies, to my work, and we just couldn’t have a baby.  I was working 15 hours a day and Kyle was gone - the last phase of flight school.

Then, there was this one night - ONE NIGHT - two years into our marriage where the clinic couldn’t squeeze my appointment to renew my birth control around my crazy graduate hours until the next month and we weren’t “prepared” and we took each other’s hands and said no matter what happened - and really what could happen? - we’d welcome anyone IF “it” happened...and Margaret Lillian was breathed into being. 

The night that changed our lives as we knew them.

I finished my master’s, but not the Ph.D. and when we found out we were having another baby a year or so later, gave myself happily and wholly and wonderfully completely to the raising of them, my precious girls.

But still something missing.

I’ve done my best trying to be what and who and how I think I should be - for my parents, for my grandparents, my husband, my children.  I drove myself batty with a drive to finish graduate school - for myself, yes, - but also because I knew it was what my parents expected, what would make them proud.  And, then, I tried to be 100% the Navy wife that I thought Kyle wanted: someone absolutely supportive, following his dream, always saying “yes” to the deployments, the long hours, the unpredictability.

I’ve tried, oh I’ve tried, to be the kind of homemaker that I felt my children should have, that they deserve.  The meal plans, the chore plans, the crafts and cookies and play dates.  I do love all these different roles, but I realize now that I’ve been trying and trying and trying to make myself be who I thought I should be and not who I’ve been created to be.  And, oh, how guilty I’ve been feeling.  All the trying and making and pushing and the shoving and the cutting out and the saying no have all made me really feel like one thing: a failure at everything.

I’m not cut out to be a full-time career woman.

I’m not the best military spouse.

And I’m certainly not Betty Crocker.

Because when you’re doing what God’s created you to do, the rest just kind of takes care of itself, right?

Today, Kyle and I loaded up the girls into our van after a monster-long nap for Miss AV, picked up Chick-Fil-A, and set up a picnic at the botanical gardens.  And we did something there that we haven’t done in a long time. 

We dreamed.

And I told him, “I know this is what is meant for me.  It’s not somebody else’s wish or hope or plan for me.  It’s what is there for me.”

He asked me, “if you could live anywhere or do anything - money or time is not a factor - where would you live and what would you do?”

After all this time and all this struggle, turns out the answer’s easy.

“Well, first of all - I’ve GOT to go home.  I’ve got to get back to the Southeast (and I named a few states in particular).  I’d live in a big, rambling, country house - not even necessarily in a neighborhood - there’d be space and woods and lots and lots of trees.  An abundance of azaleas.  This house, it would be bursting with our children.  An absolute houseful of children and I’d be their teacher.  But, there would be a tiny nook there for me to write.  I’d care for and teach our children and write.  Not just for my blog, but stories.  A couple of nights a week, I’ll have a job using my counseling degree in some fashion - I’d want to be in women’s health, a pregnancy clinic, or birth education.  You’d have a flying job that you love - but something both predictable and flexible.  We’d have our own vegetable garden in the back and a yard full of animals.  A chicken coop, some ducks, and an old barnyard cat.  Douglass the dog, of course, and maybe a lazy old sheepdog.  On sunny days I might even hang the laundry on our clothesline.  A porch swing, a rocking chair, a magnolia tree with snow-white blossoms, silky and frothy and petals like summer.  Wild honeysuckle.

That’s what’s missing.  That’s what’s me.”

And then we talked about how we might do it.  Make it happen.

It starts with a writing class that’s taken me almost a year to gather the courage to even sign-up.  Remember this?  I wrote about this class the night before I woke up with 2 minute contractions about to deliver Alice Virginia in our bedroom.  I got my books for this class in the mail yesterday, and I’m already dreaming up my first assignment: a children’s short story due June 4th.  This class teaches you to hone your skills and how to break into print.  I’m so excited about it I can scarcely talk about anything else - or breathe.  It feels so right. 

Like I’m finally responding to that within me that my Creator put there - way back in the caverns of my mother’s womb.  Like I’m finally giving in and saying, “OK.  Let’s do this your way.”

And not just this.  But I’ve started running.  Crazy, I know.  Especially for y’all that know me really well and KNOW how much I despise running.  Because I really do.  But, it’s what works for this time and our budget and, by golly, I’m going to get my figure back - however mangled by two ten-pounders that may be.  I’m delving deeply into the Word, going back to basics, listening. 

My nose held to the air, breathing.

I’ve been satisfied, mollified, distracted by the fleeting particles of french-fries, the traces of salt reminiscent of the real fish.  I’ve done things or forced things that make me feel like I’m doing a decent job of “my duty,” but I almost missed the ocean.  I almost missed the sand, the sun’s reflection on a school of scaley-fish.  Graduate school and all the rest of it - they’re not my real fish.

And I want the real fish. I want the real fish.

Since we moved to this new place a little over a month ago, I’ve been searching for a reason.  We loved Oklahoma.  We loved our friends who were family in Oklahoma.  We loved our life there - if it weren’t for this amazing opportunity for Kyle down here, we would’ve freely chosen to stay there forever.  We’ve trusted that the homesickness and the longing for there was all for a good and perfect plan.

But where is the good?  WHERE IS THE GOOD???

Maybe it’s partly this:

I’m tired of being a Sonic seagull.  I’m tired of settling for the french-fries tossed out by tourists.

I want to honor God by doing what he created me to do, and when I sing for joy in the shadow of wings, teach my children to do the same. 

I want to be a Seagull seagull.

I’ve caught a whiff of the ocean, friends. 

My foot’s a little weakened and weathered from a run-in with a semi, and my feathers sure are tarnished and blemished and ruffled, but I’ve caught a whiff of the ocean, and I’m going back out to sea.

What about you?  What are your dreams? What have you been created to do and are you doing it?  What are your roadblocks or what are your biggest encouragements?  What needs to change for you TO do what you’re created to do?
and just for fun...a picture of my girls and me on the day I decided to follow the rest of my dreams.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The final frontier

Last Saturday, we were thankful for a good afternoon.
The last frontier to be unpacked is our garage. So, while we tackled broken lawn-movers, Christmas decorations, and croquet equipment, the girls had a bit more fun out on the driveway. 

We dragged out the water table for the first time since last summer.  Meggie enjoyed exploring with all the toys and AV enjoyed watching Meggie.  

Another new development for our Meggie is that she's beginning to express herself through imaginative play more and more each day.  She's taken to carrying around her "Baby," and especially loves our outside time where she drives "Baby" in her car to pick up an "ice cream treat" or "run errands."  

With a proud and charmed heart, we overheard her say to Baby, "now that was fun wasn't it, baby girl?"

It's so fun to see her mind grow and big girl personality blossom.

Kyle didn't know I was letting her put the water balls in her mouth.  When he saw this picture, he literally gagged and said, "OOOHHH, that's so gross!" :)

so serious

I'm cool and I know it.

she was trying reeeaaaalllly hard to reach this box and had gotten up in the crawling position, but then collapsed and looked over to me for help.

I LOVE those leg rolls! :)

lately, AV's been making this silly, sweet scrunchy-nose smile and I think it's precious!

she finally made it over to the box, opened it up, and dropped a red square in - she loves putting things into other things.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mommy Photography Challenge Day #8: Makes you go Hmmm? or Yummm!

Yes, I'm skipping days, but I haven't forgotten them!  It's just close to midnight and I have to post today, so...

Guess what we got to do today?

And everyday if we want to?

We went to the beach! 

Just for an hour, just to hang out, just to dig in the sand and drink deep of the wave sounds, lapping over the shore.

The girls stayed mainly on our big Snow White blanket, Meggie hopping off every now and then to make octopus and fish sand sculptures out of molds from my mom’s going-to-the-beach kit way back in September.  I splayed out for most of the time cross-ways to keep the blanket weighted down against the ferocious wind.

Who knew there was ever a place more windy then Oklahoma?

Not I said the little red hen.

It was a bit sea-weedy, but we got to see a digger at work on the beach and sea gulls in the air and we were all three content. 

While Meggie made ice cream sundaes out of perfectly-scooped sand, AV nibbled globs of it as the waves gushed them by.
YUUUUUUUMMMM! A sandy ice cream cone. :)
We got home so sunscreeny and sandy and clothes sticking to our legs from the ocean that I plopped both girls right down in the tub.

Which confused Meggie's blossoming sense of time and made her start asking: "You put me to bed tonight, Mama?  Read stories and go night night now? Where my daddy?"  To which I had to answer: "No, baby, it's lunch time after bath today and then naps and THEN we play some more until Daddy gets home from work."

AV chased a squishy ball around with a tea cup, thrilling in the splashes her legs made with each scoot.

A happy, seashore-going, beach-day.
Inspired by Family Magazine

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mommy Photography Challenge Day #2: Puts a Smile on my Face OR Feelings

Definitely puts a smile on my face
I don't know which one is my favorite for this day, so you may have to help me.

Meggie Moo is my little mother, lover of all things baby.  As much as the two-year-old in her may exasperate my patience or baffle my sentiments, above everything else - and at the root of things - she's a caregiver by nature.  The best kind of oldest child. 

I'm so thankful that kindness and compassion for others is written into her design - and that I was the one chosen to be her mama, to help shepherd these gifts along (while ensuring that my little mother has someone to take care of her, too, of course).

Everyday, everyday she wakes up and asks me:

"We go to the park today? Meggie push Baby Allie in the stroller?"

It's her thang.
and she always does her best to be careful.

I suppose AV is not a lover of all things baby. Looks like our time in the exersaucer is over for sure.

Both now and forevermore. :) Don't worry, I rescued her right away this picture was taken.
"Feelings." She's always been an expressive one.
Inspired by Family Magazine

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mommy Photography Challenge Day #1: What/Where Spend the Day

(written yesterday) :)

It’s storming here today.

The first day since we’ve lived at the beach that we’ve had a proper storm. 

I simply love a good thunderstorm, and right now I’m listening to the pelting of hail on the windows and feel the vibrations of thunder shake the walls a little bit.  It’s been black as night since about 10:00 this morning - I’m crossing my fingers for a long, looooooong nap time for both girls.

(Eh, scratch that - AV woke up early and is sitting on her palette playing, already yawning, but Meggie is still sleeping!)

They have gotten stuck on this cycle of not sleeping well in the afternoon.  I think potty-training is the culprit for Miss Meggie; she usually wakes up after about an hour needing to try and go.  Where Miss AV’s concerned, I’m guessing it’s her one-year-old molars?  Why my children cut one hundred billion teeth all at the same time is beyond me.  Just a few weeks ago she got five in the same week, and now I just peered into her mouth and her gums way in the back look red, puffy, and irritated.  She’s also gone completely OFF solid food, so that’s another clue. 

If I’ve learned anything from my first-time parenting experience it’s that nothing seems to last forever when they’re this little.  With a little time and patience (and perhaps the help of an earth-shaking storm?), I’m hoping they’ll right themselves again.

Today is also AV’s ten month birthday. 

My ladybug has gotten a feisty spark in her old age.  Her glowing personality keeps us all entertained and on our toes.  But, it’s her tenderness, softness, babyness which we’ve continued to cherish since the beginning and which still endears her to everyone.  That baby girl brings such contentment and love into our home - I try to remember when we got pregnant before we really were planning to and I was afraid I would never love another baby like I loved our Meggie, and I simply cannot do it.  I cannot remember what it was like not to know her, not to squeeze her, not to breathe her in. 

Like sugar in our tea.

Like manna to my soul.

I’ve been trying all morning to snap a ten month picture, but it’s been too dark outside for a good one. 

Maybe I’ll succeed tomorrow and will be able to put up a true ten month post for her since our moving day happened to be on her nine month birthday. 


One whole month in this new place. 

Seems so long and so short.  Still waiting for it all to seem familiar.  I may have to wait a while.

I did, though, capture a few of Meggie girl while AV took her morning nap for an exciting project sponsored by Inspired by Family Magazine and The Hollie Rogue.  These gals, in honor of Mother’s Day next month, have challenged mamas to document their daily lives through photography prompts - what makes us laugh, cry, tremble, sing for joy.

What most intrigues me about this whole deal is the encouragement to BE CREATIVE. 

I miss using my brain in an artsy way, as well as being a student with an assignment.

And, of course, celebrating my littlest loves, Megga Lilly and Allie V.

We spend a lot of our time reading books.

Meggie's gone through different phrases of loving books and being disinterested in books.  Honestly, when she was a baby/early toddler, I couldn't get her to sit in my lap and stay for the duration of a story.  She's always been full of energy with a drive to explore.  Books seemed like too passive of an activity for her.

As a mother, I went through this long period of mourning.  Reading is my all-time favorite hobby, and passing on a love of reading to my children a big time dream of mine.  Even though I began reading to that child before she was even born, it seemed like we'd never share this love.  I know in the grand-scheme of things it's not important, but I did, in a way, feel heartbroken while encouraging her to be who she is.
But.  Recently, when she learned that reading was something she could do for herself - my independent lady - she began memorizing every single book we have.  And now it's her (current) favorite thing to do.

Turns out we're always reading something around here.

In the morning, we stack up a huge pile of books if we're not quite ready to wake up when she is, and she entertains herself for at least half-an-hour.  Once AV goes down for her nap, we pull her books out again and jump onto our bed to snuggle and read.  And when Daddy gets home from work, we all read again while I make dinner.

So much LOVE piled on that bed!  My heart does a flutter because these are some of the most precious moments, the times when all this parenting stuff actually feels like I thought it would - and makes all the harder ones more than worth it.  My reality and expectations perfectly aligned.  I recognize these moments for the sweet gifts they are, and hold them tight.
I just love this one...I'm thinking of submitting it for the thankful/blessed prompt.
 I wanted to remember them through the first day prompt: How we spend our day.

Well, hello there, birthday girl!
AND - I just know that once Meg really learns how to read and connects words on the page with paintings in her head, there'll be no stopping her.  It's just how she is; it's just how I am.

Can I urge YOU to come along with me and take the challenge, too?

Inspired by Family Magazine

Friday, April 13, 2012


probably my FAV moment of the whole day! :)
One of the amazing things about living in a beach town is that you can always feel like a tourist. 

We experienced one such moment last week. 

Right when you drive over the bridge to the Island, there’s this quintessential putt-putt course called “Treasure Island.”  It has everything - tumbling waterfalls, intricate water traps, holes through caves and under lighthouses, and blue bonnet ice cream sold in a cone.

K started back to work today, and we were trying to cram in everything new and exciting we could about this city before he donned his flight suite again and vacation life as we’ve come to know it since we’ve moved was over.

On our list was taking Miss Meggie putt-putting for the very first time.
brushing off his coaching skills to teach Meggie the drill.
how she hit the ball
watching the ball
And that girl absolutely carried on about every single second - not to mention being cute as a june bug with her little yellow club and matching hair bows.  Total coincidence. 

She listened carefully while K explained how to putt and aim for the hole.  She didn’t quite understand the methodology behind holding onto her club, but she had a really fun time trying to scoop the ball in as we went around the course.  When all else failed, she plopped it into the hole with her hands.
Before every hit she'd yell: "READY, S'GETTY, GOOOO!"
AV's hand gripped mine over the golf club the whole time.
Not only does Meggie genuinely care about others - their feelings, their needs, their comfort - but she’s also a fantastic encourager.  She always waited for us to take turns putting and then would cheer as loudly as she could.
cheering for Daddy, "YAY!"
We did, though, have to redirect her sometimes as our little drifter was caught up with the beauty of the water, flowers, and lilting white butterflies.
Ok, so most of the time all we did was chase Meggie around the green, but it will be fun to come back before we leave in a few years and play another round.  I'll bet she'll be a pro by then!
Poor Kyle ended up playing with three clubs most of the time.
The course also had this hole in a cave, and in the cave a “pirate” was hand-cuffed in a hammock.  Meggie became very concerned and a tiny bit frightened by this pirate, so I told her he was “sleeping.”  Since going putt-putting she’ll occasionally pipe up in her most serious voice: “that man was sleeping, mama!”

And she calls it “pup-pupping.”  How precious!?! :)
As usual, AV and I are bjorn buddies.  I just love holding that girl! (and, yes, Mom - they both are slathered in sunscreen!)
and you putt-putt with a baby like so...
see ya later, alligator!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Doings 2012

Our Easter morning sunrise
I want to remember every moment of our first Easter in our new home.

The entire day was a treasure, even including the grand finale when Miss Alice Virginia grabbed hold of my Easter surprise tablecloth and yanked the whole shebang onto the floor.  Several broken plates and cups, hugs from mama, and a huge pouty lip later (I think the noise really scared her) - we were still giggling. 

That’s the sign of a good day, a day to rejoice.

We woke up a little earlier than the girls - around 6:30 - threw on some clothes, fed AV a bottle, and shooed them out the door for the sunrise over the water.  We got there seconds before the sun crested over the waves.  There were some other early risers there, too, but for the most part, we felt secluded on our little piece of beachfront.  AV was still mostly interested in eating the sand, but Meggie wanted to jump in the water.  She also wanted me to hold her - she’s been asking more and more lately for me to carry her - I couldn’t resist snapping a candid shot of the way she nestled into my shoulder.  She’s gotten more cuddly with age, but I still feel like I have to document our snuggles because she’s usually super independent.  I could’ve stayed like that with her forever.  Truly.

The temperature was perfect.  A little on the chilly side, and the clouds framed the rising sun with beauty.  Kyle gave a condensed version of the Easter story as we watched the sun come up and listened to the gulls call.  Life beginning.  It was a reminder we needed.
right when we got there, the sun is just about to come up over the waves.

My Meggie snuggling

Kind of one with all us.
Jumping in the morning waves with Meggie.
 Several hours later, Meggie was still talking about going to the beach that morning.  At lunch she spontaneously said, “I had fun.  Jumping in the waves this morning was fun.”

Her statement made the morning’s memory that much sweeter for us, and special.

After the sunrise we came home to eat cinnamon rolls and get ready for church. 

We’ve been here three weeks now (so crazy and hard to believe) and we’ve been trading off weeks to try new churches so that we don’t take the girls into an unknown nursery situation.  For Easter, we went back to the church Kyle tried last week.  This church is a whole lot smaller than the one we loved in Oklahoma, but it reminds both of us in different ways of the churches in which we grew up as children.

It kind of has the feel of a large Sunday school class and we both agreed that the members were the most genuinely welcoming of any church we’ve ever tried.  I guess every one knew we were visitors, but they approached us in a way that was easy and not nerve-wracking - if that makes sense.  We instantly felt comfortable and not shy.  A good thing. :)
Precious girl on the swings.

A minute later she toppled off right onto a fire ant hill.  Oh, TX!

I thought AV looked just like an angel in her Easter dress.
We got there early for a church-sponsored Easter egg hunt.  Meg had practiced an egg hunt in our backyard yesterday - with empty eggs.  When she discovered that the eggs had treats in them on Easter morning, she was content to sit right down with the first egg she found at church and eat the treat.  Nothing we could say or do tempted her away from that prize.  She was a happy girl.  She also loved the swings there and sliding down the slide - even though Kyle had to catch her before she flew through a sand pile in her new Easter dress.

We were a little concerned that she might feel shy or hesitant around a group of new children as this past Sunday was the first time in three weeks that she’s been apart from us - an occurrence that’s highly unusual since she went to BSF, MDO, and church every week.  We talked in the car on the way over about how we were going to church - she was SO excited and beaming - but that it was a new church with new friends.  We told her that she could be brave and meet new friends, but if she felt scared or worried to tell her teacher and we’d come find her.  BUT, after the Easter egg hunt, she walked right into the 2 and 3 year-olds class without a second look back at us.  AND, she was the only little girl in a roomful of about 12 boys.

After we picked her up, her teachers told us that the boys didn’t faze her - that she pulled her own weight and could take perfect care of herself (that she kept trying to get her own snacks down).  They also said that she went pee-pee on the potty twice!  At one point during the service I peeked in on her and saw her helping a younger boy drink his sippie cup and heard a teacher compliment her on using manners.  Kyle and I were so proud of our brave Meggie girl.  Our little mother and independent lady.  God has big plans for Meg’s caring heart, passion for service, and love for exploration.

The church was so small, though, that it didn’t have a nursery for AV.  They had a room with all the nursery stuff, but it’s on an as-needed basis.  They told us that we could either keep AV with us, play with her in the room, or leave her in Meg’s class.  Because she’s our AV - the sweetest, calmest, happiest baby on the planet - we had no qualms about keeping her with us during the 1.5 hour service.  Had it been Baby Meg - different story. :)  Trust me, that thought kept coming up in my mind while we were there...thank the Lord we’re trying churches when Meg’s old enough to go to nursery.

AV did fantastic during the service.  She came with us up to the front when the congregation put flowers on the cross and then played on the floor with some toys during the service.  She only made a couple of peeps when she got really tired.  All in all - she got up at 6:30, missed her morning nap, and got home at almost 1, so we couldn’t ask for anything more.  She was so tired that she fell asleep on the way home in her carseat. 

I’m not quite sure how it will work out long-term without a nursery if we decide to stick with this church, but we’ve at least got to go back once to collect Meg’s hairbow.  It’s one of my very favorites from when I was little and we left it in her classroom.  But, I think Kyle and I are both hopeful that this could be our new church family - it’s a service-oriented church with a multigenerational congregation that teaches the Bible.  We met several homeschooling families and lots of families with little children. 

All good things for us!

If nothing else, I think we left the service on Sunday feeling like for the first time since moving here we’d found a place where we could see ourselves belonging.  A place that knows and loves our children, helping us to bring them up in the Lord.
sleeping beauty
Once we got home, I insisted that we try taking pictures of the girls in their precious Easter dresses from my mom - queen of darling Easter dress finds.  They were both semi-melting down from the long morning, but I knew we had to take our chance as they would be changed for lunch and naps. 

So.  We bribed Meggie with chocolate for a smile and ran out in our backyard for a total of 2 minutes.  We’d heard reports of giant, dinosaur-like mosquitos in Corpus, but didn’t really believe them.  We should have.  These things are huge!  And they attack as soon as your foot touches the grass.  In our 2 minutes, Kyle and I each got bitten like five times and when one landed on AV’s head we were done.

Not the best Easter pictures ever, but we’ll take what we can get with two hungry, tired babies and monster mosquitoes. 

Kyle did most of the lunch feeding and putting down for naps while I got to finish cooking.  Even though I was busy cooking, I overheard this inspiring lunch conversation:

“Meggie, did you make new friends today?”
“Mmmm-hhhmmmm. Yes, I did.”
“Who did you meet?”
“I met Benjamin.  He’s sooooo CUTE!”
“Oh! Benjamin is cute, huh?  Was Benjamin a baby or was he your age?”
“He’s ‘your age’ and Benjamin is sooooo cute!”
“I see.” grumble grumble grumble.

I have no idea where she learned that particular phrase, but if it’s starting this young I’d say we’re in DEEP trouble!  :) 
AV mid-wave...I caught it!

Sweet, sweet girl

Precious little mother...Meggie wanted AV to have her hairbow

She finally has just enough hair on the very top of her head to stick a little bow in.
A whole nap time later, we were ready to eat.
On the menu: ham, cheesy potatoes, wild rice, deviled eggs, fruit salad, garlic broccoli with cashews, homemade rolls, sweet tea, strawberry pie and cheesecake.  Now, somebody save me from myself - there's way too many leftovers and I can't stop eating!!! :)
I know it’s a ton of food, but I’m a Southern girl through and through and, somehow, it doesn’t seem like a true celebration without a table of bounty.  I'm really hoping that we live by family one day because I’m gonna put out a spread regardless.  I LOVE cooking meals for my family (and friends who are family and anybody, really!) - not only for the nourishment of their little bodies, but knowing that I’m creating memories for them.  I want them to remember cherished events like I do, and feel loved through the food that’s presented. 
caught red-handed. :) the cutest fruit-snatcher around.
and this one was VERY interested in everything we were eating.
During the rest of the day we talked to our families and watched the stunning Master’s finale.  Normally, I’m not a golf person, but I do love to watch the Master’s this time of year to catch a glimpse of the azaleas.  Bonus was the amazing play-off at the end.  And, of course, AV discovering her own strength against our unsuspecting tablecloth.

As we tucked our angels in bed last night, I felt overwhelmed with thankfulness.  For this day.  For two little girls and the opportunity and responsibility of raising up these little women.  For their health and sweetness.  Our friends all over the country, and especially for the rich-in-blessing life we lived in Oklahoma and the comfort we derived from our time there. For our family and the experiences - magnificent and heartwrenching - that bring us ever closer.  For new beginnings - even when I’m tempted to fear the unknown.  And for a Love that came down to die, rise again, and call us to live with Love, too.  I’m thankful for forgiveness and renewal and patience when I get it wrong and a relationship that evolves and deepens as I evolve. 

For Christ. Who did it all.